Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 5 Hansard (3 May) . . Page.. 1414..
Planning and Urban Services-Standing Committee
Representation for witnesses
MR HIRD (11.14): I ask for leave to move a motion concerning witnesses appearing before the Standing Committee on Planning and Urban Services.
MR HIRD: Mr Speaker, members will recall that this matter came up in our inquiries into draft variations 158 and 163. It is to do with the interpretation of standing order 246 which deals with witnesses' rights to advice. I was pleased that the parliament saw fit to give my committee the ability to undertake what is spelt out in the motion; that is, that the Assembly orders that during the remaining term of the Fourth Assembly, witnesses appearing before the Standing Committee on Planning and Urban Services in relation to inquiries concerning variations to the Territory Plan may be represented by counsel or advisers. The operative words are "may be". This is to be determined, as it should be, by the respective committees. My committee asks, as they have previously, for your support in our endeavours to undertake our task as prescribed by this place.
That this Assembly orders that, during the remaining term of the Fourth Assembly, witnesses appearing before the Standing Committee on Planning and Urban Services, in relation to inquiries concerning variations to the Territory Plan, may be represented by counsel or advisers.
MS TUCKER (11.15): I would like to make a couple of comments about this. I understand that the Assembly is generally supportive of it, but this motion relates to standing order 246 that states:
Witnesses before a committee may not be represented by counsel or advisers unless ordered by the Assembly, but a witness may consult with counsel or advisers while giving evidence.
Presumably this standing order was intended to ensure that committee hearings did not become quasi legal hearings with the inequity that this generates for community groups and individuals who do not have the resources to pay for this sort of support while business often does.
I understand that this motion has arisen because of circumstances arising in hearings of the committee where advisers to proponents of particular developments, such as planning consultants or architects, have appeared on behalf of the proponent rather than the proponent appearing for themselves. I have to ask why this motion is needed.
I think it is fair enough that proponents should speak directly to the committee and be questioned by committee members. If the proponents feel that they do not have all the technical knowledge then I would have thought there was a provision in the standing orders for witnesses to consult with advisers while giving evidence, and the advisers themselves could also seek to appear before the committee in their own right rather than on behalf of someone else.